- I know, it’s been a few days since I posted, and you missed me. :P
- It’s nice to be missed! Even if I am talking to myself…it’s a sign of genius, you know…
- G & S have their end-of-year assessment tomorrow morning! It’s going to be a hot one!
- Because we currently have no A/C. *wiping sweat from my forehead*
- I’m missing my baby nephew something awful…and he misses me. I just know it. Aunts know these things. :D
- We’re not finished with all of our curriculums yet, but we need to get this done and let the county know that they have moved up at least a grade level.
- We’ll keep right on trucking until the end!
- I hate season finale episodes. It makes for an emotional month of May. Why does everyone have to die or be on the verge of death?
- I want my A/C back.
- Spoiled, I know. Thankfully it’s not the absolute heat of summer here, yet, and we’ve had some cooling rains.
- We are starting work with an ABA therapist (behavioral) to help G with his tantrums and anxieties and so on and so forth. So far so good! What we have put in place based on Dr. K’s recommendations are working beautifully! She comes again this week to observe our “school day.”
What are we up to in school this year? In May, we will close out our third year of homeschooling.
Math: Math-U-See. I still love the hands-on with the blocks, the very short teaching videos, and simple lay-out of the pages. I’ve been hearing great things about Teaching Textbooks, but changing that with G would be a huge adjustment. G is scary good at math. He typically covers two grades in one year in this subject. It’s one of his Aspie superpowers and God-given gifts.
History/Geography/Literature: We are using Core B from Sonlight. This core focuses on part 1 of World History, up through the Romans. We have really enjoyed it. I took out a couple of books just for time’s sake, but we love all the literature and history. When I tell the kids that it’s time for history, they actually say, “Yeaaaaa!” *cue twilight zone music*
Bible: I am using Egermeier’s Bible from Core A instead of Core B’s suggestion. I am thrilled that we chose to do this. The history from Egermeier’s lined up perfectly with Core B’s world history, and Egermeier’s is now (two years later) more on a level that my kids can grasp. Really great kids’ Bible.
Spelling: I just started Sequential Spelling so it has not been in our curriculum all year, and I am not pushing this subject because we are diligent about correct spelling anyhow. However, these kids love spelling. I really like this curriculum and its approach. Very logical.
Reading/Language Arts: Both kids have a variety of readers based on their level of reading from Sonlight. It comes with a set of comprehension questions as well. (Another reason I love Sonlight.) These books range from humorous to historical fiction, across all eras of history and parts of the world. S is still in Kindergarten so she only has a phonics workbook (Explode the Code), and we do a few exercises from Sonlight such as alphabetizing word cards, etc. G uses First Language Lessons for grammer, and Writing With Ease for reading comprehenion and dictation, and Worldly Wise for vocabulary and more reading comprehension. (G struggles with reading comprehension even though he can read at a 5-6th grade level). We are coming at Language Arts from a completely different direction than the traditional public schools. Yes, there is a method to my madness.
Handwriting: I recently switched back to Handwriting Without Tears for a variety of reasons, first and foremost is that it is highly recommended for Aspies. Surprisingly, my kids were begging me to learn cursive, so why not? I bought the next book and they just got started and love it! I think they feel more grown up. Historical documents are written in cursive so it’s necessary to be able to read it, and I do think it’s a needed skill.
Physical Education (PE): Yes, we do this, too. G and S participate in summer swim team as well as a year-round swim team. This is a life-long and life-saving sport so we see it as necessary. In other words, right now, the kids have no choice but to participate. In case you hadn’t noticed, we live on this giant sand bar called Florida and water is everywhere. We also have a curriculum called Family Time Fitness that provides activities for 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It is common for Aspies to have weak core strength so this program will be good for him. We may try out gymnastics or tae kwon do (my personal favorite) this next year, too.
Music: Well, it may seem obvious that it’s easy for me to teach this, but no. I do take my kids to another teacher for lessons. And she takes her daughter to yet another teacher. It just works better that way. Also, a piano teacher is often the first adult a child works with one-on-one and this social development is important for a child. When we have time, we use a curriculum called Color the Composers and Maestro Classics to learn music history and listening skills. Both are fun.
Art: A dear friend teaches art classes out of her home and both G and S participate in this. She uses a homeschool art curriculum as the basis (I forget which one), and the kids LOVE it. She teaches it in 6-week segments so if a break is necessary, it is easy to do. S has a talent for art so she really thrives in this class.
Science: We started the year using Apologia’s Exploring Creation (Astronomy) but it became too dry and not enough hands-on. These kids crave science experiments and putting their hands on the world around them to experience how it all works. I switched back to Sonlight’s Science curriculum for that reason. But in all honestly, it’s walking science around here, everywhere you look really.
We don’t cover every subject every day, and on a good day, we are done easily by lunchtime (except for Art, piano, and PE). If you’re thinking that that is not nearly long enough because other kids are in school all day long, remember that I only have two students here – the traditional classroom has many, many more and there is extra time built in to the day that we don’t need. Therefore, we get through school much faster.
A common question for us is if we attend any homeschooling groups. There are different types of groups and you have to find what works for you and your family. The group we have chosen to attend is a nationwide group called Classical Conversations.
Classical Conversations’ motto is “to know God and make Him known” through the classical model of education. This model has three stages of learning. The first stage is called “grammar.” It is not “grammar” in the sense of learning verbs, nouns, and punctuation. It is the grammar of each subject – the nuts and bolts of a topic. In this stage, the grammar is memorized. Kids’ memories are amazing and they soak this stuff up incredibly fast. The next stage is dialectic. Students start to put this information to use, putting it together across subjects and discussing it. After that is the rhetoric stage where all that has been learned can then be fully and clearly communicated and debated.
When I first started homeschooling, I tossed out this method as boring and not for us. But as a piano teacher, I began to notice what I was doing with my own studio students. In the first stage, my students learn the nuts and bolts of music – rhythm, dynamics, note names, etc. Next, as the student progresses, music theory begins to make sense. They are connecting the dots as to how it all works together to make a beautiful piece of music. Finally, a student can then take all of that knowledge and clearly communicate, with as little help from me as possible, what a composer wants to say through their piece, or likewise, they can improvise from a lead sheet and/or create an entire song.
Then it clicked for me. It’s a natural learning process. I do apply other educational methods in my own homeschool, but that’s for another post. Here’s what CC is all about, what I love about it, and why it works for us:
- The class sizes are small. (6-8 children) For G, this is fantastic because it allows for an environment that is not overwhelming. The overall size of each CC group is also capped.
- The class meets for three hours once a week. Just right.
- It is fast-paced. Tutors move from topic to topic quickly. They introduce the material, help the kids memorize it on the spot with easy methods (hand motions, music, games, etc.) then move on to the next activity. Perfect for G. Staying too long in one topic and he gets bored.
- It is active. The kids are up, down, jumping, singing, saying the material in robot voices, or mouse voices, or opera voices. Silliness abounds! Again, perfect for G – that kid likes to move! And S, well, silliness is her middle name.
- Material from several subjects is presented each week to be memorized at home the following week. Timeline, History, Science, Math, Geography, English, Latin, Fine Arts, Presentation, and a Science Experiment are done every week. In three hours! I KNOW! One of G’s superpowers is his incredible memory. This comes easy to him. S is also great at memorizing things. I wish my brain worked that well!
- Even if we did nothing else in those three hours, it is worth every penny for us to do presentations. They are 2-3 minutes long and each week the kids focus on one aspect of a successful presentation – eye contact, speaking clearly, etc. This is an incredible opportunity for the kids to make public speaking a natural skill rather than a fear. More often than not, we have not prepared for a presentation so my kids are really good at impromptu speaking. Ha!
- I love love love the Timeline. The kids learn major events from all across history, continents, eras and fields in one single timeline from Creation to now. I, myself, have learned so much from this exercise. As I reflect on my own education, I know history in chunks – American, Western Europe, World, Music History. But see it all together chronologically? Huge.
- Science experiments. These are just cool. And less I have to clean in my kitchen.
- Fine arts. They learn to play the tin whistle, learn drawing skills, study major artists in each era of history and then copy their style using their methods. Unforgettable! They learn all about orchestras, major composers and listening skills as well. As a musician and piano teacher, I am impressed. S loves the arts portion of this group.
Our director and tutors have also been so helpful with G. They are sensitive to his needs and are proactive and supportive. They also let me know pretty quickly if a substitute tutor is in place because that kind of surprise can end up in a bad morning for G. I could not have asked for a better homeschooling community to be a part of. They are truly a blessing. This type of group isn’t for everyone, but for our family and our needs and wants, it is perfect. We love it.
This month is World Autism Awareness Month. This is our story.
Asperger’s is tough. For the one with it, for the family and friends, for the world to understand. But please know, G is not broken, not sick, and is perfect just like he is – the way God made him. My Aunt Macie said it best on her comment to my blog post yesterday: “I think it may be that the destination will be the same, but the path will be different.”
For us, here are the challenges. For right now. I know it gets better. We’re just adjusting to that different path.
Tantrums. They are exhausting. They can be unpredictable, but I am learning how better to handle them and anticipate them. We have been so blessed by answered prayer in this area recently. These aren’t your normal tantrums. They can be very physical, last a long time, and it’s as if all other senses shut down. All you can do is wait. And pray. And be patient. Sometimes I cry, too. Especially if we’re out in public. Ugh, the stares. The stares!
Routine. Our world revolves around routine. A dear friend of mine is a school psychologist in another state and she told me about “Oops Days” for their kids. I loved this idea. We now have a white board in our “classroom” with a detailed schedule and any changes in this schedule is written in red and called an “Oops Day.” My chronic migraine issues give us an Oops Day now and then, too, but G adjusts well to that. He likes to hold my head for me. Sweet kid. We recently adjusted our nighttime routine and it’s taking a looooooooooong time and some minor tantrums for him to get used to it. Patience.
Sleep. Another thing I’ve learned recently is the dire need for sleep for these “Aspie” kids. From what I’ve learned, apparently they don’t have as much melatonin as the rest of us and it is harder for them to sleep. I can wholly testify to that fact! No sleep for G = a miserable day for all of us. We recently added melatonin to his nighttime regimen and it was like having a new kid. We handle nighttime routines very, very carefully now. He has to get sleep.
Changes. Any change, big or small, can spell disaster. I am continuing to get used to this. Even something so minor as a name tag change at church (true story) can really change his world. We get used to warning him in advance, preparing him, empowering him. What is such a minor inconsequential detail to most is a really big deal to us.
Sensitivities. It’s different for each Aspie (I’m still getting used to that nickname), but for G, it is noise and crowds and intense emotion. Honestly, I don’t blame him. I don’t like noise and crowds either. I prefer to be on a stage performing in front of a crowd (keys/piano) than in the crowd. Strange but true. He can get overwhelmed easily. Thankfully, it’s not hard for Chris and I to gauge when enough is enough because we are sensitive to these things as well.
Learning. He’s a smart kid. We know because we had him tested. (Big Bang Theory, much?) *grin* He’s always been homeschooled except for his preschool year (4yrs old) and he thrives in this environment. He may have an ADHD component according to the psychologist and I certainly see that here, but it is managed here. Again, there is nothing wrong with him. I don’t mind if he is upside down while listening to history. It doesn’t bother me if he is hopping from one foot to the other while we do science. He can run circles around the room while I read a story. He learns well! Since the diagnosis, I’ve only changed a couple of things in our curriculum to better help him – handwriting and science. The more hands-on, the better. We have good days and we have bad days, but he is thriving and that is what counts.
Communication. His world is his world. And when his world doesn’t go as he expects it to then his emotions have the potential to skyrocket. At the same time, he expects us to know what is wrong automatically, as if we are reading his mind. Because to him, our world is his world, too. It’s hard for him to grasp that our world is different from his world. It is challenging for him to communicate exactly what is wrong with his world so that we can fix it or help him cope.
His brain is wired differently. That’s all it is. What comes intuitively to the rest of the world is going to be a learned skill for him. Facial expressions, social cues, etc. He will need to learn how to do all that. How? Social skills groups. Parental and trusted adult prompting. Practice. Games. Books. There are numerous ways. I’m still learning about them myself!
All of this can be exhausting.
I have to end on a good note. I forgot another super power that G has. He is incredible with music. (Really, are we surprised? He is my son after all!) :) In some ways, he is a piano teacher’s dream come true (minus the constant fidgets). Scales? He loves them. Playing pieces in any key? It’s one of his favorite challenges. ”Hey, mom, what key should I play it in now?” He asked me that one day. I randomly mumbled, “Uh, E minor…” ”Ok!” he replied. And he did it. Just like that. He certainly showed ME. He loves music theory.
He’s a kid after my own heart. (Music geeks unite.)
This month is World Autism Awareness Month. (Read yesterday’s post to catch up.)
We long to make the world aware of what Asperger’s (on the autism spectrum) is, yet we are also fully aware every moment of every day because we live it and have lived it even before it was diagnosed. But the delights…the good…are something to be celebrated and reveled in. If I brag about my son, often it’s because we have struggled a lot in another area that day or week. I need to celebrate.
Today, I am celebrating his super powers.
His math skills are incredible. He’s technically in second grade (homeschooled) but is now racing through a fourth grade math book. And I mean racing. It’s only taken a month to get half way through a year-long book. It comes easy to him. Explain a concept once and he has it. He sees the world in numbers: his feelings have percentages, he examines my receipts, he does math in his head really fast. Trust me, I’m going to need to brush up on my calculus very soon. Whew.
He has a love for God and an understanding of Scripture that amazes me. An unbeliever may call it a special interest, sure, but the power of the Holy Spirit in his heart is undeniable. His thirst for knowledge about the Bible is unquenchable. I work to stay a step ahead of him. King David is one of his favorites.
He has compassion for the poor and the hurting and those who don’t know his friend Jesus. We were driving by a, let’s say “non-Christian”, religious facility this past year. He asked numerous questions about why they were so crowded. I explained. His response? ”Mom! We have to go back and tell them about Jesus! Turn around, Mom! Turn the car around!” Why don’t I have that sense of urgency?
Last year, his ability to focus intently and be bold helped him to raise over $600 starting from a simple lemonade stand for the people of South Africa. Our church ministers to a particular township there. When he wants to do something, he will indeed stay focused and get it done. He will learn what he wants to learn about and he will learn everything about it. He will accomplish his goal.
He has a beautiful smile and contagious laughter and gives the best hugs. He loves to be hugged.
And how could I not mention video games? I’m not sure it’s a super power, but he sure does love them. He beat Super Mario at 4 years old.
He’s a smart kid. He’s sweet. He’s amazing. He’s going to change the world. I’m sure of it.
He has super powers and he wears an invisible cape. Today, we are celebrating.